Memoirs of a Buccaneer: Dampier's New Voyage Round the World, 1697

Memoirs of a Buccaneer: Dampier's New Voyage Round the World, 1697

by William Dampier


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ISBN-13: 9780486457260
Publisher: Dover Publications
Publication date: 01/15/2007
Series: Dover Maritime
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 738,736
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x (d)

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Memoirs of a Buccaneer

Dampier's New Voyage Round the World, 1697

By William Dampier

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 1968 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-14573-0


An Account of the Author's Return out of the South-Seas, to his Landing near Cape St. Lawrence, in the Isthmus of Darien: With an Occasional Description of the Moskito Indians.

APRIL the 17th 1681, about Ten a Clock in the Morning, being 12 Leagues N.W. from the Island Plata, we left Captain Sharp and those who were willing to go with him in the Ship, and imbarked into our Lanch and Canoas, designing for the River of Santa Maria, in the Gulf of St. Michael, which is about 200 Leagues from the Isle of Plata. We were in Number 44 white Men who bore Arms, a Spanish Indian, who bore Arms also; and two Moskito Indians, who always bear Arms amongst the Privateers, and are much valued by them for striking Fish, and Turtle or Tortoise, and Manatee or Sea-Cow; and five Slaves taken in the South-Seas, who fell to our share.

¶ The Craft which carried us was a Lanch, or Long-Boat, one Canoa, and another Canoa which had been sawn asunder in the Middle, in order to have made Bumkins, or Vessels for carrying Water, if we had not separated from our Ship. This we join'd together again and made it tight; providing Sails to help us along: And for 3 Days before we parted, we sifted so much Flower as we could well carry, and rubb'd up 20 or 30 pound of Chocolate with Sugar to sweeten it; these Things and a Kettle, the Slaves carried also on their Backs after we landed. And because there were some who designed to go with us that we knew were not well able to march, we gave out, that if any Man faultred in the Journey over Land he must expect to be shot to Death; for we knew that the Spaniards would soon be after us, and one Man falling into their Hands might be the ruin of us all, by giving an account of our Strength and Condition; yet this would not deter 'em from going with us. We had but little Wind when we parted from the Ship; but before 12 a Clock the Seabreeze came in strong, which was like to founder us before we got in with the shoar; for our security therefore, we cut up an old dry Hide that we brought with us, and barricadoed the Lanch all round with it to keep the Water out. About 10 a Clock at Night we got in about 7 Leagues to windward of Cape Passao under the Line, and then it. proved calm; and we lay and drove all Night, being fatigu'd the preceeding Day. The 18th Day we had little Wind till the Afternoon; and then we made sail, standing along the shore to the Northward, having the Wind at S.S.W. and fair Weather.

¶ At 7 a Clock we came abrest of Cape Passao, and found a small Bark at an Anchor in a small Bay to Leeward of the Cape, which we took, our own Boats being too small to transport us. We took her just under the Equinoctial Line, she was not only a help to us, but in taking her we were safe from being described: we did not design to have meddled with any when we parted with our Consorts, nor to have seen any if we could have helped it. The Bark came from Gallio laden with Timber, and was bound for Guiaquil.

¶ The 19th Day in the Morning we came to an Anchor about 12 Leagues to the Southward of Cape St. Francisco, to put our new Bark into a better trim. In 3 or 4 Hours time we finished our Business, and came to sail again, and steered along the Coast with the Wind at S.S.W. intending to touch at Gorgonia.

¶ Being to the Northward of Cape St. Francisco we met with very wet Weather; but the Wind continuing we arrived at Gorgonia the 24th Day in the Morning, before it was light; we were afraid to approach it in the Day Time, for fear the Spaniards should lie there for us, it being the place where we careened lately, and there they might expect us.

¶ When we came ashore we found the Spaniards had been there to seek after us, by a House they had built, which would entertain 100 Men, and by a great Cross before the Doors. This was token enough that the Spaniards did expect us this Day again; therefore we examined our Prisoners if they knew any Thing of it, who confessed they had heard of a Pereago, (or large Canoa) that rowed with 14 Oars, which was kept in a River on the Main, and once in 2 or three Days came over to Gorgonia purposely to see for us; and that having discovered us, she was to make all speed to Panama with the News; where they had three Ships ready to send after us.

¶ We lay here all the Day, and scrubb'd our new Bark, that if ever we should be chased we might the better escape: we fill'd our Water, and in the Evening went from thence, having the Wind at S.W. a brisk gale.

¶ The 25th Day we had much Wind and Rain, and we lost the Canoa that had been cut and was joined together; we would have kept all our Canoas to carry us up the River, the Bark not being so convenient.

¶ The 27th Day we went from thence with a moderate gale of Wind at S.W. In the Afternoon we had excessive Showers of Rain.

¶ The 28th Day was very wet all the Morning; betwixt 10 and 11 it cleared up, and we saw two great Ships about a League and half to the Westward of us, we being then two Leagues from the shore, and about 10 Leagues to the Southward of point Garrachina. These Ships had been cruising between Gorgonia and the Gulf 6 Months; but whether our Prisoners did know it I cannot tell.

¶ We presently furled our Sails, and rowed in close under the shore, knowing that they were Cruisers; for if they had been bound to Panama this Wind would have carried them thither; and no Ships bound from Panama come on this side of the Bay, but keep the North-side of the Bay till as far as the Keys of Quibo to the Westward; and then if they are bound to the Southward they stand over and may fetch Galleo, or betwixt it and Cape St. Francisco.

¶ The Glare did not continue long before it rained again, and kept us from the fight of each other: but if they had seen and chased us, we were resolved to run our Bark and Canoas ashore, and take ourselves to the Mountains and travel over Land; for we knew that the Indians which lived in these parts never had any Commerce with the Spaniards; so we might have had a chance for our Lives.

¶ The 29th Day, at 9 a Clock in the Morning, we came to an Anchor at Point Garrachina, about 7 Leagues from the Gulf of St. Michael, which was the Place where we first came into the South-Seas, and the way by which we designed to return.

Here we lay all the Day, and went ashore and dried our Cloaths, clean'd our Guns, dried our Ammunition, and fixt our selves against our Enemies, if we should be attack'd; for we did expect to find some Opposition at Landing: we likewise kept a good Look-out all the Day, for fear of those two Ships that we saw the Day before.

¶ The 30th Day in the Morning at 8 a Clock we came into the Gulf of St. Michael's Mouth; for we put from Point Garrachina in the Evening, designing to have reached the Islands in the Gulf before Day; that we might the better work our Escape from our Enemies, if we should find any of them waiting to stop our Passage.

¶ About 9 a Clock we came to an Anchor a Mile without a large Island, which lies 4 Miles from the Mouth of the River; we had other small Islands without us, and might have gone up into the River, having a strong tide of flood, but would not adventure farther till we had lookt well about us.

¶ We immediately sent a Canoa ashore on the Island, where we saw (what we always feared) a Ship at the Mouth of the River, lying close by the shore, and a large Tent by it, by which we found it would be a hard Task for us to escape them.

¶ When the Canoa came aboard with this News, some of our Men were a little disheartened; but it was no more than I ever expected.

¶ Our Care was now to get safe over Land, seeing we could not land here according to our desire: Therefore before the Tide of Flood was spent, we manned our Canoa and rowed again to the Island, to see if the Enemy was yet in Motion. When we came ashore we dispersed our selves all over the Island, to prevent our Enemies from coming any way to view us; and presently after High-water we saw a small Canoa coming over from the Ship to the Island that we were on; which made us all get into our Canoa, and wait their coming; and we lay close till they came within Pistol-shot of us, and then being ready, we started out and took them. There were in her one white Man and two Indians; who being examined, told us that the Ship which we saw at the River's Mouth, had lain there six Months, guarding the River, waiting for our coming; that she had 12 Guns, and 150 Seamen and Soldiers: that the Seamen all lay aboard, but the Soldiers lay ashore in their Tents; that there were 300 Men at the Mines, who had all small Arms, and would be aboard in two Tides Time. They likewise told us, that there were two Ships cruising in the Bay, between this place and Gorgonia; the biggest had 20 Guns, and 200 Men, the other 10 Guns, and 150 Men: Besides all this they told us that the Indians on this side the Country were our Enemies; which was the worse News of all. However we presently brought these Prisoners aboard, and got under sail, turning out with the Tide of Ebb, for it was not convenient to stay longer there.

¶ We did not long consider what to do; but intended to land that Night, or the next Day betimes; for we did not question but we should either get a good Commerce with the Indians, by such Toys as we had purposely brought with us, or else force our way through their Country, in spight of all their Opposition; and we did not fear what these Spaniards could do against us, in case they should land and come after us. We had a strong Southerly Wind, which blew right in; and the Tide of Ebb being far spent, we could not turn out.

¶ I perswaded them to run into the River of Congo, which is a large River, about three Leagues from the Island where we lay; which with a Southerly Wind we could have done: and when we were got so high as the Tide flows, then we might have landed. But all the Arguments I could use were not of force sufficient to convince them that there was a large River so near us, but they would land somewhere, they neither did know how, where, nor when.

¶ When we had rowed and towed against the Wind all Night, we just got about Cape St. Lorenzo in the Morning; and sailed about 4 Miles farther to the Westward, and run into a small Creek within two Keys, or little Islands, and rowed up to the Head of the Creek, being about a Mile up, and there we landed May 1. 1681.

¶ We got out all our Provision and Cloaths, and then sunk our Vessel.

¶ While we were landing and fixing our Snap-sacks to march, our Moskito Indians struck a plentiful Dish of Fish, which we immediately drest, and therewith satisfied our Hunger.

¶ Having made mention of the Moskito Indians, it may not be amiss to conclude this Chapter with a short account of them. They are tall, well-made, raw-bon'd, lusty, strong, and nimble of Foot, long-visaged, lank black Hair, look stern, hard favour'd, and of a dark Copper-colour Complexion. They are but a small Nation or Family, and not 100 Men of them in Number, inhabiting on the Main on the North-side, near Cape Gratia Dios; between Cape Honduras and Nicaragua. They are very ingenious at throwing the Lance, Fisgig, Harpoon, or any manner of Dart, being bred to it from their Infancy; for the Children imitating their Parents, never go abroad without a Lance in their Hands, which they throw at any Object, till use hath made them Masters of the Art. Then they learn to put by a Lance, Arrow, or Dart: The manner is thus. Two Boys stand at a small distance, and dart a blunt stick at one another; each of them holding a small stick in his right Hand, with which he strikes away that which was darted at him. As they grow in Years they become more dexterous and courageous, and then they will stand a fair Mark, to any one that will shoot Arrows at them; which they will put by with a very small stick, no bigger than the Rod of a Fowling-piece; and when they are grown to be Men, they will guard themselves from Arrows, though they come very thick at them, provided two do not happen to come at once. They have extraordinary good Eyes, and will discry a Sail at Sea farther, and see any Thing better than we. Their chiefest Employment in their own Country is to strike Fish, Turtle, or Manatee, the manner of which I describe elsewhere, Chap. 3. For this they are esteemed and coveted by all Privateers; for one or two of them in a Ship, will maintain 100 Men: So that when we careen our Ships, we choose commonly such Places where there is plenty of Turtle or Manatee for these Moskito Men to strike: and it is very rare to find Privateers destitute of one or more of them, when the Commander, or most of the Men are English; but they do not love the French, and the Spaniards they hate mortally. When they come among Privateers, they get the use of Guns, and prove very good Marks-Men: they behave themselves very bold in fight, and never seem to flinch nor hang back; for they think that the white Men with whom they are, know better than they do when it is best to fight, and let the disadvantage of their Party be never so great, they will never yield nor give back while any of their Party stand. I could never perceive any Religion nor any Ceremonies, or superstitious Observations among them, being ready to imitate us in whatsoever they saw us do at any time. Only they seem to fear the Devil, whom they call Wallesaw; and they say he often appears to some among them, whom our Men commonly call their Priest, when they desire to speak with him on urgent Business; but the rest know not any thing of him, nor how he appears, otherwise than as these Priests tell them. Yet they all say they must not anger him, for then he will beat them, and that sometimes he carries away these their Priests. Thus much I have heard from some of them who speak good English.

¶ They marry but one Wife, with whom they live till Death separates them. At their first coming together, the Man makes a very small Plantation, for there is Land enough, and they may choose what spot they please. They delight to settle near the Sea, or by some River, for the sake of striking Fish, their beloved Employment.

¶ For within Land there are other Indians, with whom they are always at War. After the Man hath cleared a Spot of Land, and hath planted it, he seldom minds it afterwards, but leaves the managing of it to his Wife, and he goes out a striking. Sometimes he seeks only for Fish, at other times for Turtle, or Manatee, and whatever he gets he brings home to his Wife, and never stirs out to seek for more till it is all eaten. When hunger begins to bite, he either takes his Canoa and seeks for more Game at Sea, or walks out into the Woods and hunts about for Peccary, Warree, each a sort of wild Hogs or Deer; and seldom returns empty-handed, nor seeks for any more so long as any of it lasts. Their Plantations are so small, that they cannot subsist with what they produce: for their largest Plantations have not above 20 or 30 Plantain-Trees, a Bed of Yams and Potatoes, a Bush of Indian Pepper, and a small Spot of Pine-apples; which last Fruit is a main thing they delight in; for with these they make a sort of Drink which our Men call Pine-drink, much esteemed by these Moskito's, and to which they invite each other to be merry, providing Fish and Flesh also. Whoever of them makes of this Liquor treats his Neighbours, making a little Canoa full at a time, and so enough to make them all drunk; and it is seldom that such Feasts are made, but the Party that makes them hath some design, either to be revenged for some Injury done him, or to debate of such Differences as have hapned between him and his Neighbours, and to examine into the Truth of such Matters. Yet before they are warmed with drink, they never speak one word of their Grievances: and the Women, who commonly know their Husband's Designs, prevent them from doing any Injury to each other, by hiding their Lances, Harpoons, Bows and Arrows, or any other Weapon that they have.


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